Happy birthday to one of Middle-earth News’ finest! Our own Valdis Longbeard celebrates another successful revolution around the sun today. As a dedicated reporter and our second-in-command, she plays a vital role both behind-the-scenes and on the frontline. Valdis is considered by all to be an irreplaceable part of our team by providing vital guidance and leadership that keeps every operation running smoothly. You’ll find all sorts of articles written by her from Tolkien news to movie-related news. Middle-earth News would truly not be the same without her and we are honored to call her one of our own.
So who exactly is Valdis Longbeard? She was able to take a few moments out of her busy schedule to answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind.
*When did you first discover Tolkien’s works and the world of Middle-earth? Did anyone in particular influence you to seek it out?
I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was eight years old. My sister Paula brought the books home on break from her first term at university, and put them in my hands. It was love at first read, and my world has never been the same! That was many years ago, and I have read the books at least once a year ever since. I lost count years ago of how many readings I’ve done, but it is well over 40. I am pretty much always reading Tolkien.
*How did you become involved with Middle-earth News?
I wasn’t involved in the “official” fandom until quite recently. I discovered Middle-earth News sometime in the spring of 2013, started reading the site, and following on Facebook and Twitter. I remember winning a trivia contest one day – with actual prizes! I kept a close eye on Middle-earth News and its reporting as the premiere for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug approached, and commented on their posts from time to time. When the videos and stills from the DOS premiere were posted, I remember commenting a couple times, something like “Arwen, how do I get YOUR job?” After one such comment, Arwen replied that they were looking for a few good reporters, and invited me to contact her if I was interested in the possibility of joining the Middle-earth News team. IF I WAS INTERESTED? HECK, YEAH! So I did, I had an interview with Arwen, and she took me on the team. To this day, I have no idea what Arwen saw in me, but I am SO happy to be part of this fantastic team. What an amazing group of women! I am truly honored to be counted among them! I so enjoy sharing my passion for Tolkien with them and with our readers. Being part of Middle-earth News has opened up a whole new community to me, and I love it all.
*If you could hang out with any Middle-earth character (or characters if you can’t choose just one!) for a day, who would it be and why? What adventures would you get up to?
It would have to be the Company of Thorin Oakenshield – all 13 dwarves, hobbit, and wizard. They’re all invited to my place for a party! There would be lots of eating, drinking, singing, and storytelling. I might even let them smoke in the house. What could possibly be more fun?
*What are you most looking forward to seeing in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies?
This is a tough one to answer, for two reasons. First, how do I choose? I am looking forward to ALL of it! Second, some of the moments I most look forward to would be enormous spoilers. However, there are two things that I can point to, since others have already revealed their presence in the film. I am really looking forward to seeing Thorin’s downward spiral into madness. As horrifying and difficult as this will be to watch, it will be magnificent. Richard Armitage will knock it out of the park. I fully anticipate being completely devastated and turned into a big blob of goo by the end of this film. I’m also looking forward to Galadriel taking on Sauron. That will be a great demonstration of why she should never get her hands on the One Ring! She has always been among my favorite Tolkien characters, and I’m glad to see her step out of the background in this telling.
*When not involved with events related to the realms of Middle-earth, what can we find you doing?
Working, mostly. I’m a university professor, so that comes with a seemingly endless stream of things to be done. Quite a lot of my non-working hours are given over to Middle-earth, actually! Besides work and Tolkien, I spend what time I can muster with my husband (who is also a professor) and my friends, talk with my two fabulous daughters, my parents, and sisters, sing in the church choir, and do theatre when I can.
*Now it’s time for a “favorites” round!
Favorite Middle-earth film?
Oh, that’s not fair! It’s almost like asking me to choose between my children. Since it’s my birthday and we wants it, we will be cheatsy and choose two, one from each trilogy. It’s quite difficult to choose even two of the five that we have seen so far. For The Lord of the Rings films, I will choose The Fellowship of the Ring. I was deeply skeptical about those films before they opened, having been scarred by the highly unsatisfying experience of the animated versions in the ‘70s. But when the time finally came, I just couldn’t wait, and went to a midnight show on opening day. I cried through almost the whole film, not because I was sad, but because I was so overjoyed with how RIGHT it was. As much as I love the other two LOTR films, the experience that I had with FOTR will always stand out in my mind.
If forced to choose between the two Hobbit films we’ve seen so far, I will opt for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I know a lot has been said/argued about the departures from the original text, but I really didn’t have a problem with them. I could go on a long rant in support of what Sir Peter has done in these films, but I won’t do that here. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, beginning to end. I remember the first time I saw DOS, I remarked, “There isn’t anything that I don’t like about this film.” After 17 viewings in the cinema and uncounted viewings at home, I stick by that assessment.
*Favorite Tolkien book?
At last, an easy one! The Lord of the Rings. Hands down, no questions. I really enjoy the epic quest, and small hands doing great deeds. As many times as I’ve read it, I always find something new, and the writing is just magnificent.
*Favorite character from the films versus favorite character from the books?
I’ll start with my favorite book character, because it’s easier for some reason. Bilbo has always been my favorite character from all the books. He has such a wonderful character arc, going from the chubby little gentleman hobbit, to a true hero, to a person held in high esteem by some of the most powerful people in Middle-earth. Bilbo shows us that there is a hero at the heart of each of us, just waiting for the right adventure to draw that hero out. I really like that idea.
Choosing a favorite character from the films is more difficult. The only way I can answer this question is to think about which character, in my opinion, is better in the films than in the book. From that perspective, I will choose Thorin Oakenshield. Frankly, I thoroughly dislike book Thorin, who is pompous, proud, greedy, and generally annoying. While movie Thorin clearly has lots of issues, we understand what made him what he is, and can see why this band of dwarves and hobbit follow him despite his flaws. He is, indeed, deeply flawed and burdened, but his quest begins in good and noble intentions. This is what will make his descent into madness all the more riveting and heart-rending in this last film. BOTFA will be one heck of a ride. I plan on bringing a very large box of tissues.
*Favorite Middle-earth location?
The Misty Mountains. I love the mountains. I don’t even know what else to say, except TAKE ME THERE NOW, PLEASE!
*Favorite Middle-earth race/culture?
That last question should have been a dead giveaway for this one. I love the Dwarves. I relate to their love of craft and shaping the world around them. They also strike me as a very passionate people, although that passion can be subverted to less than noble ends. Loyalty and honor are at their core, qualities that I personally value highly. There’s a sense of integrity to the Dwarves, even though their history has driven it to be directed mostly within their people, as opposed to embracing other races/cultures. Their story is so sad; it really touches me.
*Favorite piece of Middle-earth memorabilia (books not included)?
I’m not sure if this really qualifies as memorabilia, but as a Charter Member of The Lord of the Rings Fan Club, my name appears in the Fan Club credits of the Extended Editions of the three LOTR films. This is a fact that I am keen to point out to anyone who watches those films with me. I know that I didn’t do anything with those films but love them and go to see them over and over again, but it makes me very proud to have my name on them.
Since I’m not sure that first thing really counted, here is one that is definitely memorabilia. I have an autographed poster from the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that is my absolute favorite. It wasn’t easy to come by. I have other signed posters that I also love, but there is something special about the AUJ poster.
The Middle-earth News staff each had something to say about our beloved Reporter/Assistant Director in honor of her birthday!
Valdis has joined the team last February, but I always thought about her as one of us from the beginning. The first thing that struck me about her has been her devotion for Peter Jackson’s movies and it made me find a like-minded person. She’s the other self-proclaimed Dwarf of our Fellowship and I think it’s an appropriate thing, since she’s a strong woman who knows how to manage everything. I admire Valdis, I’m happy she’s another fellow cat-lady and she’s the professor I always wanted to have! Her students are really lucky. Happy Birthday, Val! I’m so happy you joined us.
Valdis. Where do I even begin? She is my “Dwarf sister” and one of my best friends. Whenever I need something, she is always there. If it’s personal, she will be one of the first to contact me. If it’s something related to Middle-earth News, I know that it will be done to the highest standards. We never have to worry about anything as long as Valdis is around! On top of all this, she’s kind, funny, and extremely smart. Her enthusiasm and dedication to Tolkien and Middle-earth made her an awesome reporter and her transition into Assistant Director was effortless.
Congratulations on another successful revolution around the sun and happy birthday, my friend! Today I shout an enthusiastic “Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!” in your honor. 😀
Happy Birthday Valdis! Valdis is a devoted lover of Middle-earth with a particular penchant for dwarves and it’s not unknown for her to grab her axe and dress as that rare thing – a female dwarf. She’s a hard-working member of the Middle-earth News team and her enthusiasm never wanes. Here’s wishing her a great day!
It’s so great to have Valdis as part of the Middle-earth News team! She is always assigning herself articles and coming up with brilliant ideas. Add on top of that her ever growing collection of Hobbit and LOTR posters and memorabilia and her epic dwarven cosplay skills…I truly don’t know how she does it. I’m convinced there’s time travel involved.
Valdis is an amazing Reporter and Assistant Director. Her enthusiasm for all things Tolkien, and especially dwarves, makes me smile every time. You are in need of someone passionate to cheer up the discussion? Valdis is the one you need. But in all seriousness, she is one of those fans I hope I’ll be someday – a fan for life that passed her enthusiasm down to her children. She is a very hard working, funny, and supportive colleague. I’m very happy to call her a friend. Happy Birthday Valdis!
Valdis’ dedication and passion for Tolkien makes her a great part of the news team. She’s also made me appreciate the race of dwarves more, which would probably make her feel extremely proud! I also have got to talk about her collection of EPIC movie posters for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I’m not so secretly jealous of them. Valdis would fit in so well with Thorin and Company, I have a feeling she and Dwalin would get along the most, haha. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VALDIS!!
I will risk Valdis’ ire on her special day by saying that, much like movie Thorin, she pretends to have a tough exterior, but hiding behind it is a heart of gold. Then again, if I know Valdis, comparing her to movie Thorin is a compliment! Valdis is passionate – especially about dwarves – knowledgeable, and isn’t afraid of hard work (also like dwarves! What a coincidence!). She recently stepped into the role of Assistant Director and has done everything she can to keep the team on track. I’m so glad you’re a part of the team, Valdis! Happy birthday and many happy returns!